For starters, I’ll tell you this much: I don’t know why ANY home team would ever choose to take the ball first if they won the coin toss. Seems to me, you’d want to get your defense on the field, get the crowd into it, and put the fear of God into your opponents. Likewise, if you’re a team like Arizona, there is absolutely no excuse, I don’t care if Bruce Arians is an offensively-minded head coach. That Cardinals team has a freakish D-Line. That Cardinals team also has a fucking TERRIBLE offense! You gotta play to your strengths when you’re going up against a clearly superior team! And your strengths last night were being at home and flaunting that defense.
Now, that having been said, maybe it wouldn’t have mattered. Those first two drives by the Seahawks were as easy as it gets. We haven’t seen that kind of early-game efficiency by this team since the LAST time we played the Cardinals. And for a while there, it looked like we were going to see a repeat of the 58-0 drubbing; but of course it’s never that easy on the road.
Once we set out on that 14-point lead, my concerns over this game sort of washed away. Having Seattle’s defense in fantasy still kept me interested in the specific goings on, but as Arizona pulled closer, I could only find myself getting more and more irritated.
The first Russell Wilson fumble was squarely on him. He held onto the ball WAY too long. Then again, at that point in the game, it seemed like we had a semi-good thing going for us on the ground; why didn’t we just run the ball? It was close enough to the end of the first half that we could have stood to run some of the clock, but what are you gonna do? Our opponent has gotten a cheap, pre-halftime touchdown the last two weeks now.
The other two Russell Wilson fumbles (one recovered by us, one not) were not his fault at ALL. Our offensive tackles were getting whipped like this was a re-creation of Roots! For my money, Paul McQuistan can’t return to his rightful position of left guard fast enough (or on the bench entirely, depending on the health of Pancakes Carpenter). Michael Bowie, I will admit, has shown some improvement since he was inserted into the lineup, but he took a huge step back last night as our resident red-headed stepchild. I’m not as convinced as some that he’s destined to be Breno Giacomini’s permanent replacement.
There were too many free runs at Russell Wilson. That’s my point. Either by design (leaving a defender unblocked in hopes to make a big run & catch out on the flat) or because someone was beat. No quarterback can take the kind of pounding Wilson has been taking in recent weeks and expect that he’s going to play a full 19 games. I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but it seems like Wilson has been hit A LOT more than he was last year. This is a nasty trend that needs to curb itself real quick.
On the flipside, our defense was OUTSTANDING last night. Kam Chancellor had what I think is probably the most beastly play I’ve ever seen. Earl Thomas had another one of his soaring, diving interceptions. Brandon Browner could have absolutely made my night until he fell for no good God damn reason at the two yard line on his would-be pick-six. Richard Sherman was more wide receiver than defensive back. K.J. Wright and Malcolm Smith were all over the field, blitzing, filling gaps to stop the run. Tony McDaniel tossed that left guard down like a ragdoll and ate Carson Palmer for
dinner a light snack. And the rest of our line got enough consistent pressure that Palmer really had no time to do much of anything.
This was the type of D-Line performance everyone envisioned when we signed guys like Avril and Bennett. A pass rush consisting of those two guys, with Clemons on the other side and Bruce Irvin coming from the strong-side linebacker spot. It only works when we’re able to stop the run, and last night we really proved our worth. Big Red, Mebane, and Clinton McDonald were a total madhouse! Arizona got all of 30 yards on the ground, and it’s not like they abandoned it because they were so far behind. 18 attempts, for a whopping 1.7 yard average. Their longest run was 6 yards!
Not that their passing was that much better. The game was 34-16 before the defense went into Prevent Mode (should have been 34-9, but that first Wilson fumble set them up at the 3 yard line, for the easy punch-in). Obviously, when Carson Palmer is facing a bunch of 3-man fronts, with the DBs playing off the line, he’s going to get his garbage-time points. That’s his M.O. Carson Palmer’s futility puts his team in a huge hole, then in the end he generates a couple of long drives to put up his numbers, and voila! 258 yards, 1 TD, and 2 INTs. Against any other team, he probably would’ve had 358, 2 TDs, and 3 INTs, but essentially that’s the prototypical Carson Palmer Game now.
For my Players of the Game, I’m going to start with Marshawn Lynch, who had his usual bruising, feisty game. 91 yards against that front seven is nothing to sneeze at.
I thought Zach Miller really opened things up for us and was our Glue Guy on offense. He caught a smattering of balls with defenders in Wilson’s face, he occupied the middle and allowed our receivers to run freer than they normally would. He even got in there and played some fullback when Derrick Coleman went down!
Malcolm Smith deserves to be singled out. He’s thrust into a starting role as our weakside linebacker with the injury to Bobby Wagner (K.J. moved to Wagner’s spot). With Smith being as capable as he was, it allowed Wright to do his thing and you wouldn’t even know that we were missing our leading tackler from last season! Smith really filled up the stat sheet too, leading the team with 9 tackles (2 for loss), a sack, a pass defended, a QB hit, and a number of QB hurries. When you think of quality depth on this team, you don’t just have to think about our secondary. We’ve got it everywhere in this defense. Malcolm Smith is the embodiment of that.
The L.O.B. still gets credit for being amazing. I can’t say it enough. Chancellor was a man possessed out there. Earl got his pick and was all over the field as usual. Sherman locked down his man and nearly got a pick of his own. And Browner really made up for his performance last week, even though he fell down on that return.
Finally, what can I say about Russell Wilson that hasn’t already been said? We were 7 for 12 on third downs and a big reason for that was Wilson and his decision-making. Yeah, there were a few fumbles, but for the most part you’re talking about the exact type of game we want out of him. And if you blame him for losing the football when there’s a man behind him as soon as he’s finished with his drop, then you’re a tool who’s just looking for something to be argumentative about. I’m looking at you, Softy. STAY OUT OF MALIBU, SOFTY!